Face pork scam probe, minority bloc urges senators

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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

(UPDATED) Members of the House minority bloc on Monday urged senators linked to the P10-billion pork barrel scam to face the investigation that will be conducted in the coming weeks.
Facing the media for the first time since elected as Minority Leader, San Juan City Representative Ronaldo Zamora said legislators who allegedly channeled their priority development assistance funds (PDAF) or pork barrel should not invoke inter-parliamentary courtesy should they be invited in a House committee investigation.
"We will invite them but it is not for us to compel anybody to attend…If they want, charges could remain charges so they should just probably answer the allegations against them," Zamora said.
"It would be better for everybody involved to not just to deny but to bring evidence to support their denials," he added.
Zamora said the 19-member minority bloc will submit the resolution calling for a House probe on Monday, August 5. The House resolution, he said, will seek to "find out what's wrong in the system."

In response, Senate President Franklin Drilon said it is up to the senators who have been implicated in the issue to attend the probe.

"I leave it to the senators but as a matter of inter-parliamentary courtesy we do not ask members of either House to attend hearings," he said.

Drilon earlier expressed reservation on the proposal to probe colleagues through a legislative inquiry, cautioning possible lack of public acceptance of the findings.

Aside from the lawmakers implicated in the scam, the minority bloc will also invite representatives of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and Department of Justice (DOJ). The two agencies were tasked by President Benigno Aquino III to conduct an investigation on the issue.
According to reports, Janet Lim-Napoles of trading company JLN Corp. used dummy non-government organizations (NGOs) as beneficiaries of PDAF through forgery, falsification and bribery. 
Several congressmen, including House committee on appropriations chairman and Davao City Representative Isidro Ungab, and senators have allegedly channeled their funds to the bogus NGOs.
"We're going to ask NBI to present whatever case they can present to us. With the help of the DOJ, we will go to the agencies and we will ask the Speaker to give us the kind of powers that are needed for a true investigation," Zamora said.
The seven-member Makabayan bloc had earlier filed House Bill 1535 calling for the abolition of the pork barrel system. Under the bill, the president shall be prohibited from providing an item for PDAF in the yearly budget proposals transmitted to Congress.  
But ACT Teachers party-list Representative Antonio Tinio, a member of the bloc, could not say whether they will reject their PDAF allocation if their bill fails to pass Congress.
"The position of not getting your PDAF does not address the issue of corruption. Has that, in any way, reduced the systematic corruption of the pork barrel system? No. There’s no such effect," Tinio said.

For 2014, P27 billion is allocated for the pork barrel of congressmen and senators. Each congressman receives P70 million while senators get P200 million annually. (Kathrina Alvarez/Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)

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